SAT vs. ACT: How Do They Compare?


The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that colleges and universities use to help make decisions about admissions and merit-based scholarships. But how do they compare? The following table provides a quick breakdown of the two exams.

Before registering for a test, consult your counselor to see which option is right for you.


The Exams at a Glance


 

SAT

ACT

Sections

Reading
Writing & Language
Math
Essay (optional)

Reading
English
Math
Science
Essay (optional)

Length

3 hours (no essay)
3 hours 50 mins (essay)

► 2 hours 55 mins (no essay)
► 3 hours 35 mins (essay)

Reading Section

65 minutes
52 questions or tasks
What this covers

 35 minutes
 40 questions
 What this covers

W&L / English Section

35 minutes
44 questions or tasks
What this covers

► 45 minutes
► 75 questions
► What this covers

Math Section

80 minutes
58 questions or tasks
What this covers

► 60 minutes
► 60 questions
► What this covers

Calculators

Some math questions do not allow calculators

All math questions permit calculators

Formulas

Math formulas provided

No math formulas provided

Science Section

No science

► 35 minutes
► 40 questions
► What this covers

Essay Section

Essay is optional
50 minutes
1 question or task
► What this covers

Essay is optional
► 40 minutes
► 1 prompt
► What this covers

Scoring

Scale of 400-1600
Essay reported separately

Scale of 1-36
Essay reported separately

Guessing

No penalty for guessing

No penalty for guessing

Cost

SAT without essay: $52
SAT with essay: $68

ACT without essay: $55
ACT with essay: $70

Fee Waivers

Yes, for eligible students

Yes, for eligible students

Free Test Prep

Yes, through Khan Academy

Yes, through Kaplan

Test Dates

2020-21 SAT schedule
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2020-21 ACT schedule
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